DEERFIELD VALLEY- Almost before floodwaters from Tropical Storm Irene receded, some local residents were already working to raise the funds that would be needed to rebuild the community.
Two of those funds have already surpassed the $100,000 mark, and a third has the potential to do the same. Donations have come in from locals, second-home owners, charitable foundations, and people from around the country.
The Deerfield River Valley Human Web was established by Jaslyn Cincotta, a Wilmington resident now living in Portland, OR. Human Web serves people affected by the flood in towns from Readsboro to Wardsboro.
Cincotta says she saw YouTube video of the destruction on the day of the flood and began hearing stories from her friends in Wilmington. “I realized what was happening in the community and that the people who got hit the worst were the people who rented, people who didn’t have stable financial plans, people who worked at the businesses in town. I was worried about the town’s ability to survive.”
Cincotta says she knew that, although FEMA and the state would be there to help, their help would be tied up as applicants waded through government bureaucracy and red tape. “I became worried about resources being available for people, and I wanted to make sure the money that was donated actually stayed in the valley.”
So, with her mother, Julie Lineberger, Cincotta founded the Deerfield River Valley Human Web, which, thanks to Mary Jane Finnegan, operates under Twice Blessed’s 501(c) (3) charitable umbrella.
Cincotta said she was initially hoping to raise $30,000 or $40,000. Earlier this week the fund topped $100,000 and is still taking in donations. Human Web has already disbursed $20,000 to individuals affected by the flood. Cincotta says recipients don’t receive the money themselves, Human Web sends checks to creditors or buys gift certificates for food or merchandise. “A lot of it has been rent, mortgage, electric bills, and car payments.” When one applicant needed a computer, Human Web sought a donation of a computer from Brown Computer Solutions.
Cincotta says all of the funds are trackable, although recipients’ identities and private information are protected. “We’ve gotten a good response from donors because we’re completely transparent.”
For more information, to make a donation or to apply for assistance from Human Web, visit www.drvhumanweb.org.
Wilmington VT Flood Relief
Adam Palmiter said he knew right away that Wilmington’s business community would be economically devastated by the flood, and that the key to capturing funds was to act immediately. “I’ve seen disasters like this before, and I’ve seen how quickly the focus shifts,” he says. “I knew it was important to start collecting donations quickly.”
Indeed, Palmiter says, initial donations dropped off after the first week, when media coverage and people’s attention shifted. “If we hadn’t gotten up and running right away, we would have lost a lot of that.”
The Wilmington Flood Relief Fund is focused on businesses that suffered a physical loss due to the flood. Palmiter says there is often less assistance available to businesses after a disaster. “People make the assumption that businesses are covered by flood insurance, but they rarely are,” he says. “Government help supports individuals much more than businesses. Most donations go to individuals.”
Without assistance, Palmiter says, local businesses will not be able to reopen and the valley could see a dramatic shift in its economy. “Mindsets change quickly,” he notes. “If restaurants don’t open in Wilmington, people will go elsewhere. And if they get used to going elsewhere, they won’t come back.”
Palmiter set high goals for the fund, hoping to raise $2 million. As of Thursday, the fund had already exceeded $150,000. Palmiter says donations have come in from locals, former residents, regular visitors to the area, and second-home owners – a Whitingham second-home owner donated $10,000 to the fund.
The Wilmington relief fund falls under the Deerfield Valley Rotary Club’s 501(c)(3), so donations to the fund are tax deductable. A committee, which includes Palmiter, Sarah Shippee, Cheryl Rothman, Janet Boyd, Charles LaFiura, John Greene, Wally Godfrey, Cindy Hayford, and Rich Caplan, oversees the grant process. Applications are available at the Dover, Wilmington, and Whitingham post offices; and the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce (at their temporary offices at Ann Herrmann’s Split Ends building on East Main Street in Wilmington).
For more information about donations and applications visit www.wilmingtonvtfloodrelief.com.
Planning for a benefit concert for flood relief began on the evening of the flood. Organizers promised a memorable two-day, 12-band valley blowout, and by all accounts they delivered that, and more.
Former resident Evelyn Vaccaro, who still has a second home in the area, flew in from her North Hollywood, CA, home to produce the event. Vaccaro says all three venues (the Snowbarn, Adams Farm, and the Grand Summit) were packed with people, many of whom were relaxing and having fun for the first time since the flood. “One of the biggest rewards was to see so many people together in one place, laughing, hugging and crying,” she says. “The crowd was filled with emotion for the support being shown.”
Along with money raised through sales of T-shirts and tickets to the various venues, Vaccaro says many of those who were in attendance also offered additional donations. One of the most touching highlights for Vaccaro was seeing a chorus of 50 local students singing a song she wrote.
Vaccaro says organizers are “over-the-moon excited” about Floodstock’s success. Although organizers are still tallying up donations, so far they estimate that more than $50,000 was taken in over the two days. Vaccaro says more will be coming in through additional donations, T-shirt sales, and a documentary she’s producing for potential donors on the West Coast.
Funds from Floodstock will be focused on businesses in Wilmington Village that suffered damage from flooding, and plan to reopen. Organizer and Wilmington Inn owner Rachel Pilcher says the grants can be used to rebuild, restock, or buy equipment businesses need to reopen. “We’re trying to keep the criteria broad,” she says. “We’re not judging need, and we’re not picking one business over another.”
Pilcher, her husband John Pilcher, and Steve Jalbert and Chris Jalbert (owners of Apres Vous) will disburse the funds.
Like the other funds, Floodstock is a 501(c) (3) charitable organization. Applications for Floodstock grants will be available at the Wilmington Inn, Apres Vous, and the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce. For more information visit www.floodstockvt.com.